A growing number of Dubai professionals are escaping the heat and decamping to cooler climes this summer.
After several years of pandemic restrictions, travel is back on the agenda, and people are taking advantage to visit family abroad, reconnect with friends and enjoy a change of scenery.
However, these people are not on holiday. Advances in technology and the growing acceptance of remote working mean that it is now possible to do your job from virtually anywhere – and for two months, those who can are exercising this freedom.
People going away for the summer, the pandemic notwithstanding, is nothing new. Federal government employees typically travel during July and August when school is out and the temperature soars.
This year, however, a new trend has emerged as people combine their travel time with work.
This trend is not limited to government workers; employers in sectors such as professional services and executive recruitment are also giving their staff the option to work from anywhere for two months.
What is more, they are promoting this “benefit” as part of their employee package.
They are right to do so. Today’s job seekers value flexibility, and allowing staff to work from wherever they choose for the summer (and beyond) gives employers an edge, improving their ability to attract and retain top talent.
Expat workers, arguably, appreciate this perk most of all. Covid highlighted how far away they are from their loved ones, and they relish this new opportunity to visit their home country and spend extended time with their friends and family.
Work-life balance gains momentum
That is not to say financial compensation no longer matters.
Salary is still the number one priority for job seekers in the region, according to Tiger Recruitment’s latest salary and benefits review.
However, benefits are now the second most decisive factor when they are considering a new role, up from fourth place the previous year.
Work-life balance has taken on new significance – with Boston Consulting Group research finding that it is one of the biggest deal-breakers for the UAE's job candidates.
Many people reassessed their priorities during the pandemic – and a job that allows for family and personal time is high on their wish list.
The good news is that work in the region is more flexible than ever, with the UAE government recently introducing a four-day week for some employees.
At the same time, work-from-home policies increasingly feature in employers’ benefits packages, while co-working spaces continue to spring up to meet the growing demand for hybrid working.
Traditional ways of working persist
Despite progress, not all employers offer flexible working, and not all employees want or expect it.
However, in Tiger Recruitment’s experience, businesses that support hybrid working are significantly more attractive to a larger pool of candidates.
For the right job, some candidates are even willing to be flexible on salary for the ability to work from home.
Research consistently shows that hybrid workers are happier, more engaged and less likely to quit.
So, why might some employers be reticent about allowing staff to share their time between work and home? Their main concern is productivity and the fear that people are less effective when not in the office.
Evidence suggests the opposite is true, with a study by Stanford University Professor Nicholas Bloom finding that well-managed hybrid work, say for two to three days a week, tends to increase productivity slightly – by 1 percentage points.
Productivity gains come from being able to focus and concentrate and not having to commute.
Still, old habits die hard and, understandably, some businesses may be slow or not want to surrender the fully office-based model that has served them well over the years.
What is the answer? From a talent perspective, offering hybrid working is the best way to attract the most qualified candidates, earn their loyalty and compete with the large multinationals who often support hybrid as standard.
The key is ensuring hybrid delivers for the business – not just for employees.
This September, employers will not be short on hybrid inspiration, ideas, and lessons learnt! Feedback from the latest cohort of summer’s anywhere workers should help pave the way for more flexible working all year round.
Zahra Clark is head of the Middle East and North Africa region at Tiger Recruitment